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Former ‘Navy Mayor’ Urges Reassessment Of San Onofre’s Nuclear Waste Risks

A site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre is shown in this photo, Ja...

Credit: Southern California Edison

Above: A site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre is shown in this photo, Jan. 2018.

The former “Navy mayor” of San Diego is asking top brass at Camp Pendleton to consider moving the spent fuel from San Onofre to a site on the base, further from the beach. Retired Adm. Len Hering said he believes the risks of storing the nuclear waste next to the ocean have not been correctly assessed.

Hering is part of a private group of scientists and nuclear experts who want to stop San Onofre’s radioactive spent fuel rods from being buried in concrete bunkers next to the beach, approximately 50 miles north of downtown San Diego.

Hering served as commander of the Navy Region Southwest. The commander is known as the "Navy mayor" of San Diego.

The now-shuttered nuclear power plant is on Camp Pendleton, between Interstate 5 and the ocean.

Photo credit: Google Earth

Google Earth graphic showing new location of nuclear waste storage site at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant (bottom left corner).

Hering said the group wrote to the current head of Marine Corps Installations West, Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, to consider moving the material to the east side of I-5, where it could be stored on a mesa on base, well above the beach.

“As sea level rises, the containers are subjected to elements that they are simply not designed to handle,” Hering said. “That in itself should be a significant risk that is of concern to the citizens, but also to the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense, recognizing that, should there be a breach, that Pendleton would basically be useless.”

"The area itself would be contaminated," he said. "God only knows what the contamination containment area might be. The risks are significantly greater than we should have to endure."

Hering said the Marine Corps has responded that they cannot consider moving the waste to higher ground because Southern California Edison’s decision to store the waste on site was approved by the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He said his group’s next step will be to approach the Pentagon. He plans to educate neighboring cities to gain support for their effort.

So far, the federal government has not agreed on a long-term or an interim storage site for millions of tons of nuclear waste at sites around the country. In January, Southern California Edison began moving the spent fuel rods out of cooling ponds and into 75 stainless steel canisters — 50 canisters of waste are already stored on site.

Private companies say they are planning to develop interim nuclear waste storage in New Mexico and Texas, but federal law currently does not permit funding such projects.

Edison’s Community Engagement Panel meets Thursday night in Laguna Hills to give an update on nuclear waste storage.

The former “Navy Mayor” of San Diego is asking top brass at Camp Pendleton to consider moving the spent fuel from San Onofre to a site on the base, further from the beach. Retired Adm. Len Hering said he believes the risks of storing the nuclear waste next to the ocean have not been correctly assessed.

UPDATE March 27, 2018: This story was updated to reflect the mileage from San Onofre is approximately 50 miles.

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